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Steering, suspension and comfort

A dash of additional nose weight and a smidgeon of extra tyre sidewall would appear to have effectively addressed our criticisms of the slightly busy and occasionally fidgety ride of the Bentayga W12.

The Diesel was supplied on 21in wheels (the W12 we tested was on 22s), and Crewe’s claimed kerb weight has it at 32kg more than the petrol model – a difference attributed to the iron block and relatively complicated induction system of that diesel V8.

Leave the car in Snow and Ice mode and the ESP is in an almost constant but discreet state of intervention

There is also a bespoke software tuning for the car’s air suspension, adaptive dampers and active anti-roll bars here, of course, intended to give the Bentayga Diesel a dynamic character all of its own – and very likely a slightly softer and more supple one than the W12 has.

Whatever the cause, the result is a Bentayga that massages away an even wider variety of lumps, ridges and bumps that travel under its wheels than the last one we tested, and which, driven at just the right pace, could convey you hundreds of miles on a mix of surfaces while maintaining a near perfectly cradled and consistent sense of isolation.

The Diesel’s ride does permit some surface noise into the cabin: just a faint background road roar, amplified a bit, no doubt, by the air spheres suspending its hubs. But even allowing for that distant hum, the car is supremely supple and quiet.

A matching sense of isolation can be felt through the steering wheel, which acts more directly on the car’s front wheels than most SUV owners will be expecting.

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Even in Sport mode it’s typically short on feedback and suffers with slightly wavering weight during hard cornering, but at least in the former respect, that’s how Bentley owners will want it.

Contrary to what the car’s sheer heft and light control weights lead you to expect, the Diesel’s body control is surprisingly flat and very smartly reined in when pitched into a bend.

It’s much gentler when tracking straight (particularly in Comfort mode), though, and while it allows plenty of vertical movement over larger undulations, it seldom permits the considerable mass to rebound unchecked.

Grip levels are always high, stability is strong, handling response is excellent and the car reacts well to being driven quickly when the mood takes you.

Despite a marginally softer-riding character than its sibling, the Diesel remains a better-handling and more engaging prospect than almost anything else that offers the same amount of luxury, or almost any other SUV of a similar size.

While heavier than the W12 and lacking some of the active chassis systems of the Audi SQ7, the Diesel was the most balanced and controllable on track.

On steel discs, with so much mass to slow down, the brakes don’t last long on a circuit. Long enough, though, to prove that grip and body control are good enough to stand proper scrutiny.

The Bentayga will pull 1.11g of lateral cornering load — comparable with a hot hatch or sports saloon — and maintain well-balanced grip and well-contained roll in steady-state cornering.

Traction and stability control systems prevent the powertrain from disrupting grip too much, but turn them off and it’s easy to trigger understeer if you’re impatient on the throttle. The benefit of disabling the ESP, however, is unexpected adjustability on a trailing throttle.

Active anti-roll bars help to shift the car’s mass and unload the rear axle when you lift off quickly in a bend.